Week 4 featured the league’s first coronavirus-related delay. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans were forced to reschedule after several Titans players and staffers tested positive for the virus after Week 3. Soon after, Patriots quarterback Cam Newton also tested positive, pushing the New England-Kansas City tilt to Monday night instead of Sunday afternoon.
This was the first big test for the NFL. All things considered, it was handled smoothly. An unexpected bye and a surprise double-header on Monday night are about as well as an outbreak can be dealt with. If further spikes occur, will more of the league schedule be disrupted? That’s a problem for another day. As for now, let’s unveil the power rankings heading into Week 5.
32. New York Jets (0-4, Last week: 32)
Sam Darnold did everything he could to keep the Jets in their Thursday night game against Denver, heaving up 42 pass attempts and leading the team in rushing yards. Darnold was also sacked six times, and the next leading rusher, Frank Gore, barely averaged over two yards per carry. The real story was on the other side of the ball, where Gregg Williams’ defense gave up big plays on the ground, in the air, and through several drive-extending personal fouls.
Next week: vs. Arizona (2-2)
31. Atlanta Falcons (0-4, Last week: 30)
Congratulations are in order for Julio Jones, who returned from injury and surpassed Roddy White as the Falcons’ career leader in receptions. Little else went positively for Atlanta in Green Bay on Monday night. Dan Quinn’s defense provided no resistance to the Packers’ offense, and Dirk Koetter’s offense was effectively bottled up. They couldn’t even build a big lead to blow in the fourth quarter this week.
Next week: vs. Carolina (2-2)
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3, Last week: 24)
The Jaguars’ offense is playing well enough to win in most instances. Defensively, the Jags are quite toothless. They gave up 300 yards passing and another 205 yards rushing in Cincinnati on Sunday, which doomed the team to its third straight loss.
Next week: at Houston (0-4)
29. New York Giants (0-4, Last week: 31)
New York moved up the rankings due not to their own success, but rather to Atlanta and Jacksonville’s failure. As moral victories go, the Giants played almost well enough to upset the Rams. Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez kept the team in it defensively, and Daniel Jones led the offense inside L.A.’s red zone in the game’s final minute before getting picked off to drop to 0-4.
Next week: at Dallas (1-3)
28. Washington Football Team (1-3, Last week: 23)
Who beyond Terry McLaurin can make a play for Washington’s offense? A putrid offensive line gave up three big sacks on Dwayne Haskins, while a suddenly-absent pass rush didn’t do much to derail Baltimore’s passing game. The NFC East is still wide open, and the only way for Washington to stay in contention is to improve its play in the trenches.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)
27. Houston Texans (0-4, Last week: 20)
Houston is now one of only four winless teams, despite having one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. The Texans had no answers defensively for Minnesota’s play-action-heavy offense Sunday, nor could they force the Vikings into a turnover. This poor start cost Bill O’Brien his job as head coach and de facto general manager Monday, so maybe a proverbial fire gets ignited within the locker room.
Next week: vs. Jacksonville (1-3)
26. Denver Broncos (1-3, Last week: 27)
Melvin Gordon sealed Denver’s first win of the year with a 43-yard touchdown run inside the final two minutes against the Jets. Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell made Sam Darnold uncomfortable all night with two sacks apiece (Chubb shared a half-sack with Shelby Harris as well). If Brett Rypien stays in the lineup for a while, you may want to add Tim Patrick to your fantasy roster. Patrick led the team in targets (seven), receptions (six), and yards (113).
Next week: at New England (2-2)
25. Detroit Lions (1-3, Last week: 19)
Holding a 14-0 lead after less than five minutes of play would normally be an early sign of a blowout in progress. Giving up 35 straight points, however, is more than enough to flip that script. To Detroit’s credit, they crawled back within a single score and still could have won; unfortunately, they could not get a late stop, and New Orleans ran out the clock to win.
Next week: idle
24. Miami Dolphins (1-3, Last week: 21)
Miami arguably outplayed Seattle on Sunday, yet turnovers and missed scoring opportunities kept them out of the win column. The Fins kicked five field goals and threw two interceptions in an eventual eight-point loss. Sharper execution and more aggressive play-calling could have nabbed them a major upset against a legitimate Super Bowl contender. What might have been.
Next week: at San Francisco (2-2)
23. Dallas Cowboys (1-3, Last week: 18)
A team should not lose a game in which it scores 38 points. Then again, a team will likely not win a game in which it allows 49 points. Dallas exploded for 24 fourth-quarter points to make the final score look better than it actually was, as they trailed Cleveland 41-14 after three. The Cowboys want to be a balanced offense, but they were outgained on the ground 307-85 and thus had to pass 58 times.
Next week: vs. New York Giants (0-4)
22. Los Angeles Chargers (1-3, Last week: 25)
Justin Herbert might be the real deal. The youngster out of Oregon helped his team build a 24-7 lead, but a late interception proved to be the difference in a 38-31 loss. Expect him to learn and grow from this performance. After all, he ended up with a higher passer rating (137.9 to 117.0) than his opponent–some guy named Tom Brady.
Next week: at New Orleans (2-2)
21. Minnesota Vikings (1-3, Last week: 26)
Minnesota earned their first win of the year, and they looked more like the Vikings teams we have gotten used to seeing under Mike Zimmer. Dalvin Cook rolled to 130 yards on the ground, and Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson both topped 100 receiving yards. Yannick Ngakoue has also recorded a sack in three straight weeks.
Next week: at Seattle (4-0)
20. Cincinnati Bengals (1-2-1, Last week: t29)
Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Tyler Boyd, and Tee Higgins form a solid young corps of offensive skill players for the Bengals, and they are all 25 or younger. With a win under their belts, Cincinnati can now focus on improving its offensive and defensive lines. The AFC North could be a lot of fun to watch for the next few years.
Next week: at Baltimore (3-1)
19. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2-1, Last week: t29)
With their offensive line in shambles, the Eagles somehow beat the 49ers despite being outgained by 150 total yards (417 to 267). Naturally. Philadelphia’s defense is what won this game, grabbing five sacks and forcing three turnovers. At 1-2-1, Doug Pederson’s team sits alone atop the NFC East standings a quarter of the way through the 2020 season.
Next week: at Pittsburgh (3-0)
18. Las Vegas Raiders (2-2, Last week: 15)
When formulating his offense’s gameplan, Jon Gruden surely doesn’t plan to call twice as many passes as runs. Against Buffalo, though, that’s exactly what happened: Derek Carr threw 44 times and was sacked on two more called passes, and the Raiders ran just 23 times for 86 yards. Does Las Vegas have an answer if Josh Jacobs can’t get going on the ground and Darren Waller is held relatively in check?
Next week: at Kansas City (4-0)
17. Carolina Panthers (2-2, Last week: 22)
Your eyes do not deceive you, dear reader. The Panthers have really won back-to-back games for the first time since October of last year. Don’t go ordering Super Bowl tickets just yet, but with the Falcons up next, Teddy Bridgewater and Co. could easily rack up three in a row.
Next week: at Atlanta (0-4)
16. Chicago Bears (3-1, Last week: 14)
Roquan Smith, Akiem Hicks, and Khalil Mack were disruptive forces against Indianapolis on Sunday. The problem is that Nick Foles and David Montgomery failed to hold up their end of the bargain. In his first start this year, Foles and the offense could only scrounge up 269 total yards and were held out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. What’s more: they have a short week to get things straightened out by Thursday night.
Next week: vs. Tampa Bay (3-1)
15. San Francisco 49ers (2-2, Last week: 13)
Nick Mullens crashed back down to earth Sunday night, eventually being benched for C.J. Beathard. Before Beathard took over, Mullens was sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and lost a fumble. On the bright side, George Kittle (15 catches, 138 yards, one touchdown) and Arik Armstead (six quarterback hits) are two supremely talented players.
Next week: vs. Miami (1-3)
14. Arizona Cardinals (2-2, Last week: 11)
In their loss to the Panthers, Arizona averaged more yards per rush attempt (5.6) than per pass completion (5.5). Taking away Kyler Murray‘s long 48-yard scramble in the third quarter makes the running statistics just as ugly, though. Kliff Kingsbury’s team has now lost two games in a row, but perhaps a trip to take on the Jets will right the ship.
Next week: at New York Jets (0-4)
13. New Orleans Saints (2-2, Last week: 16)
New Orleans got back to their winning ways in Detroit on Sunday, erasing an early 14-point deficit with 35 straight of their own. Emmanuel Sanders showed out to the tune of 93 yards on six catches, which helped ease the burden on Alvin Kamara. 33-year old cornerback Patrick Robinson deflected two passes in addition to four solo tackles.
Next week: vs. Los Angeles Chargers (1-3)
12. Tennessee Titans (3-0, Last week: 10)
The Titans’ organization was overrun with positive COVID-19 tests in Week 4, and we all hope for good health for everyone involved. Their matchup against 3-0 Pittsburgh was bumped to later in the season, but Tennessee is still slated to take on 4-0 Buffalo, provided they can contain the virus. Stay tuned.
Next week: vs. Buffalo (4-0)
11. Cleveland Browns (3-1, Last week: 17)
Cleveland’s offensive line went from a liability in 2019 to a strength in 2020. Jedrick Wills, Joel Bitonio, J.C. Tretter, Wyatt Teller, and Jack Conklin have paved the way for three consecutive 34-plus-point outbursts. In those three wins, Browns ball-carriers have combined for 215, 158, and 307 yards on the ground. The Dawg Pound is alive and well.
Next week: vs. Indianapolis (3-1)
10. Los Angeles Rams (3-1, Last week: 12)
The Rams sloughed through a strange game against the winless Giants Sunday, sacking Daniel Jones five times while also yielding almost five-and-a-half yards per rush. Jared Goff put up another impressive performance, yet the run game outside of Malcolm Brown was mostly ineffective. Rams defenders knocked away five New York passes, and Johnny Hekker boomed five long punts to help pick up the slack.
Next week: at Washington (1-3)
9. New England Patriots (2-2, Last week: 7)
New England won’t be penalized too much for losing on the road to the defending champs without their starting quarterback. They should be penalized for starting Brian Hoyer in an actual NFL game, but alas, their defense is good enough to keep them in pretty much any matchup. Chase Winovich is starting to look like a legitimate edge rusher in this league.
Next week: vs. Denver (1-3)
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1, Last week: 8)
24-7 deficit in the second quarter? No problem! Ndamukong Suh helped spur the comeback, forcing a fumble that Devin White recovered, and the offense scored just three plays later. Ronald Jones easily broke 100 yards on the ground, while Mike Evans, Scotty Miller, and O.J. Howard caught three of Tom Brady’s five touchdown passes on the day.
Next week: at Chicago (3-1)
7. Indianapolis Colts (3-1, Last week: 9)
Can a team that lost to Jacksonville really be the seventh-best in the league? While this ranking may seem like a stretch, the Colts are playing historically good defense right now. Justin Houston and DeForest Buckner are spearheading a unit that has given up an average of just 235 yards and 10 points per game during Indy’s three-game win streak. Check back at the end of November to see how they stand after facing the Ravens, Titans, Packers, and Titans again to cap off a grueling four-week span.
Next week: at Cleveland (3-1)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0, Last week: 5)
Fortunately for Pittsburgh, they were not afflicted by the coronavirus outbreak that derailed their original Week 4 opponent, Tennessee. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, they now have to play 13 consecutive weeks without a bye, and seven of those contests will come on the road. When asked about this daunting schedule, coach Mike Tomlin said emphatically, “We do not care.”
Next week: vs. Philadelphia (1-2-1)
5. Buffalo Bills (4-0, Last week: 6)
Buffalo has a franchise quarterback, stellar athletes at all three levels on defense, and a 4-0 record. Obvious areas for improvement are to get more production out of the running game and to have the defensive stars play up to their potential consistently, but this has the makings of a special year for the Bills. Their next two games–against Tennessee and Kansas City–will go a long way in determining just how good this team is.
Next week: at Tennessee (3-0)
4. Baltimore Ravens (3-1, Last week: 4)
Although they had two turnovers and an otherwise ho-hum day offensively, the Ravens were never seriously threatened by Washington. Rookie first-round pick Patrick Queen has already made himself at home in the middle of Baltimore’s defense, and Matthew Judon added his first two sacks of the year. The team’s 38-6 drubbing of the Browns in Week 1 looks more impressive all the time.
Next week: vs. Cincinnati (1-2-1)
3. Seattle Seahawks (4-0, Last week: 2)
Russell Wilson threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns with a 112.4 passer rating against Miami, which was arguably his worst game of the season so far. Seattle has a Sunday night affair with Minnesota upcoming, followed by their bye week. After that, things get cooking (pun very much intended) with four divisional games in five weeks, and the lone non-NFC West opponent is 4-0 Buffalo. Bon appetit!
Next week: vs. Minnesota (1-3)
2. Green Bay Packers (4-0, Last week: 3)
Offense? Check. Defense? Check. Special teams? Well, Mason Crosby missed an extra point, so at least Matt LaFleur has something to critique after Monday night’s blowout win. Davante Adams and Allen Lazard did not play, so the perimeter passing game took a backseat to Jamaal Williams and Robert Tonyan eating up targets underneath. Everything is working for the Packers right now.
Next week: idle
1. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0, Last week: 1)
The Chiefs had a hard time getting receivers open downfield against the Patriots’ sticky man coverage, and they still won by double digits. Even without Chris Jones, Kansas City’s defense kept New England under control, forcing three second-half turnovers (four overall). Of course, Cam Newton did not play in this game, but Andy Reid vs. Bill Belichick coaching matchups are always worth the price of admission.
Next week: vs. Las Vegas (2-2)